Daily Archives: March 27, 2010

Autralian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

The last time Sebastian Vettel took pole position, a spark plug failure cost him a probable victory. This time, he will be hoping for better luck in Australia. Before the race begins, let’s have a look at what might happen during the race.

The traditional first-corner Melbourne crash - expect another this year

The traditional first-corner Melbourne crash - expect another this year

First of all, with an extra 4 cars on the grid, and the notorious Turn 1, there will almost definitely be a first-lap crash. In 2009, Heikki Kovalainen, Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello all collided. The year before, Felipe Massa spun, and Webber, Button, Vettel, Heidfeld and Fisichella all got involved at the first corner. Also, with the much heavier fuel loads at the start, I am sure that someone will be caught out and understeer into someone else.

Another factor to consider is that the pole sitter has a very high chance of keeping their lead. In the last 14 years in Melbourne, only 2 of the pole sitters did not win. They were both involved in accidents in the race. The driver in pole position generally can cut out a huge lead for himself, as Jenson Button did last year. Even better, they are on the clean side of the track, so a good start is very likely. With all of this in mind, Vettel has a good chance of keeping his lead.

But, what about his well-known reliability problems? Two-thirds of the lap in Melbourne is spent at full throttle, which could be a strain on the engines. However, this could be countered by the colder-than-normal conditions we have been having across the weekend. If it rains, for example, the Renault engine would hardly overheat.

Next up is strategy. If the conditions were dry, then it would be a simple 1-stop strategy for most of the field. But, the  imminent first-lap crash will cause tyre problems if the safety car is deployed. If Bernd Maylander is called out, then drivers who started on the softer tyre will have less time to get the most out of them. Drivers who start on the harder compound can go much longer in the race, when added with the durability benefit. The one problem is that the harder compound takes about 3 laps to fully warm up, which would suit them well if the safety car came out on Lap 1, and they were heated then. For the front-runners, however, most will have to start on the soft tyre, since their fastest lap was set on them in Q3. Therefore, those in the top 10 who are starting on the hard tyre (unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be an official list of who is on what tyre, but I’m pretty sure that Sutil is one of the drivers on the harder tyre) will have a good chance in the race.

There will not be the tyre-wear issue that we had last year. A few days back, I incorrectly reported that the super-soft and medium tyres were being brought by Bridgestone. It is in fact the soft and hard tyres that are being used. This means that the super-soft tyre problem that we had last year will not be happening this year, which means that the soft compound can be used for about 15 or so laps this year, compared to the 10 laps last year.

Then of course there is the weather. Unlike many other years, showers are being forecast for tomorrow. If rain does fall, then the two compounds of tyres do not have to be used in the race. Depending on when it falls, it may give an advantage to the front runners who start on the soft tyre. The perfect time for it to rain, in the eyes of the leaders, is around Lap 14-16 or so. The BBC are predicting heavy rain at points tomorrow, with moderate visibility. Temperatures will be between 12 and 20 degrees. The colder-than-normal temperatures will hugely disadvantage the harder tyre, because it will be harder to warm them up when they are first put on.

Drivers to watch

Mark Webber – The local boy, woho has never finished higher here than his 5th in 2002 with Minardi. He is 2nd on the grid this year, with the best car on the grid. with the crowd behind him, expect him to push Vettel for the win until the last lap. Unless his terrible luck catches up with him…

Robert Kubica – an upgraded front wing and other aerodynamic updates have resulted in a much better R30 than in Bahrain. Kubica starts P9, and on the clean side of the grid as well, so he could make up 1 or 2 places at the start. The Renault seems to pick up speed very well as its fuel burns off, so if the weather stays dry then he could perform well. The one thing he needs to be careful of is the first corner, with several aggressive drivers ahead of (Schumacher) and behind (Sutil and Hamilton) him.

Lewis Hamilton – I’m not expecting a good result from the Briton, but I am expecting fireworks. He is overly aggressive at starts sometimes, and he is bunched up in the middle of the field, so expect him to cause a big pile-up on Lap1.

Heikki Kovalainen – This may seem like an odd choice, but he has the best chance out of the new teams. He lines up 19th on the clean side of the grid. He has the best new car, so he may possibly get a chance of keeping the pressure on the drivers in front. The only thing that would stop him is reliability.

Australian GP Saturday qualifying press conference

Today we saw Red Bull lock out the front row of the grid ahead of tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel leading Mark Webber. Fernando Alonso joined these two in the post-qualifying press conference:

Q: Sebastian, what a lap. The final sector of it you were hanging it off the edge of the kerbs, you were all over the place. You certainly spoiled the day for the Webber fans here in Melbourne.
Sebastian Vettel:
Yeah, I think obviously first of all it is a great result for both of us and for the team. Mark’s home race, so it is a little bit funny remembering last year from Germany, so kind of revenge but it is a long race tomorrow. But coming back to qualifying, I think we did a good step into qualifying with the car, improving it, and the final session was all about ‘does it start to rain or not.’ Everyone went out. We waited a little bit and the first lap was the quickest and just spot on everywhere until I reached the last three corners. I would say turn 14, the fast right hander, I was still on the edge and okay but after that I think I lost a little bit, especially the last corner onto the main straight. It was a very good lap up to that point. I was very happy. I think the result says it all, so looking forward to tomorrow. It is quite good to start at the front. We don’t know how messy it might get tomorrow, safety car, no safety car. There is always a lot happening in Albert Park but it is good to be on pole. The clean side as well, so I am very happy.

Q: Mark, eight one-hundredths of a second down on Sebastian. You lost time in the middle sector there but what did you think of your performance? Are you happy?
Mark Webber:
Not really. I would love to be on pole. Second is a good result as Seb said for the team. Both of us are up there which is fantastic. It is a lot better than my qualifying in Bahrain. The lap was pretty decent but for both of us there is always a little bit here and there where you can get a little bit more out of it. In the end I did my best. That’s all I could do. The middle sector, turn six and nine, is always a balancing act to get the entries and exit clean, so overall I would say I would like to be one place further up but Seb did a good job for the team, so very, very close and see how we go tomorrow.

Q: Fernando, you are a further eight one-hundredths down on Mark. Are you closer to the Red Bulls on race pace, do you think, than you are on qualifying pace?
Fernando Alonso:
No idea. We see tomorrow. Qualifying has been good for us. We knew that to beat the Red Bulls was a difficult thing to do here, so we just concentrated to maximise our potential, so third I think is a very good result and the pace has been good in one lap performance, so we are close to them and tomorrow we see. The race is long. We will try to finish the race and hopefully be on the podium again like in Bahrain and keep on scoring points. The race is long and as Sebastian said here will be a very long race with safety cars, accidents, problems, very tough also for the mechanical aspect of the car. First we need to finish the race and then we will see if we were quick enough to fight for the win or not.

Q: Sebastian, you said on the radio at the end that ‘we will show them’. Do you feel you have something to prove and , if so, who is them?
SV:
Everyone else. I got the call P1 and Mark P2, so at the end of the day you are a team and the result in Bahrain for both of us, myself and Mark, was probably not as the car is. We have got another chance here. There are lots of races this year but it is quickly said on the radio, things like that. We are all motivated and I am looking forward to tomorrow.

Q: Sebastian, we spoke about the final sector. That was also where both the two Red Bull cars were particularly strong. What was the trick to that?
SV:
Nail it! I think that the car has been working well yesterday. I think I was a bit behind Mark in the first two practice sessions and overnight we did a step forward. I think to qualifying again it was another step and then it was pretty much head to head. You were talking about the first run in Q3. We were all the teams in the same situation. We didn’t know if it would start to rain or not. We had the forecast of some drizzle, but you never know how strong that is going to be. It can easily spoil your lap. I think that the first run I had in Q3, the first two sectors were spot on. The third sector was getting a bit messy towards the end, so I lost it a little bit into 15, braking a bit late and I had not so clean an exit onto the main straight, so it wasn’t ideal but still it was enough. For all of us we are trying to push so hard and trying to get every single bit out of the car. Especially here in Melbourne it is very easy to overshoot on entry and therefore have a bad exit or be too patient on entry and therefore having a good exit but having lost the time on the entrance of the corner. It is always a compromise to find. I like the circuit. It is very bumpy, very rough, but you really need to concentrate hard. Being on pole positions is a great achievement from all of us. Mark second, so it is the best possible result for the team, so looking forward to the race.

Q: You have never finished here, but you have only been here twice. What are the major factors in the race going to be? How difficult is the car to drive on the bumps under braking?
SV:
Well, I think the main thing is to finish. See the chequered flag this time. Last year we were close, only a couple of laps. But today was qualifying. Similar to Bahrain, Saturday is completely different to Sunday. Now we have a rough idea what is happening on Sunday, meaning that everyone of us will jump into the car with a lot of fuel in the car and it will be totally different. I think it will be even more bumpy and more difficult to control. It is a very long race. You need to focus on your own race, keeping the car on the track and at the same time managing your tyres plus trying to keep the car always on the limit. On top of that Albert Park is well known for any kind of happenings. I remember two years back only seven cars finished, so safety car, accidents, could be quite messy, so the main thing is to have a tidy race and bring the car home. Starting first that‘s where you want to finish as well.

Q: Mark, particularly impressive on the harder tyres in Q2. That must be encouraging even if you are disappointed not to be on pole?
MW:
The team has done a great job all weekend. We have been competitive all weekend. We have always been in the top few, so that was not what we expected as we know we have some very good opposition here. But in the end we got the maximum result for the team. Obviously I am not happy with the order but Seb did a great job and both of us pushed each other hard and that is what it’s about at this level. He got one back on me from Germany last year when I got pole from him as he said before, so in the end we had a good battle today and we go again tomorrow. It is a long, long race in terms of safety cars and a lot of the smaller teams with inexperienced drivers are also getting used to this new type of venue compared to Bahrain. It is a different type of track, so I don’t think that we will be finishing in the order in terms of the top 10. I think there will be few changes potentially, so we will see how it goes.

Q: How much did you change from this morning to this afternoon and from yesterday as well?
MW:
We changed a bit overnight, as much as we could. We got pretty much the optimum out of the car today. It went very well. It is evident that Sebastian and I are trying to find time that is probably not there and we can see that with his last sector in places and my middle sector. All of a sudden you start to look for a lap time which is much more riskier to get and easy to make mistakes. I wasn’t particularly keen on repeating my Bahrain performance. That was a good lap. Just a bee’s dick off pole, but at least I am on the front row and have a good chance to start the race in a good position.

Q: Fernando, apart from everything else you had a new wing on the car today from yesterday. Has that made a big difference? Anything major?
FA:
Some, some new parts put in the car. You put it in because you believe it is better. We are talking about hundredths of seconds. Anything is welcome but for this race we didn’t change the car in a way.

Q: You won here in 2006 and you said yesterday you were concentrating on race settings, so is third on the grid a surprise for you?
FA:
Not a surprise as I was not expecting any clear order. Yesterday’s times they mean nearly nothing as with the different fuel loads we have this year anyone can have a different preparation for the weekend. Yesterday we were in P15, so we were preparing for the race compared to our competitors maybe a little bit more, so for tomorrow I am confident. But as we all three said already, tomorrow’s race is a very long race with many things that normally happen here. Also there is the weather as it is not so clear that it will be dry, so anything can happen tomorrow. Better to start in the top three, top five, if you want to fight for a podium or a win, so definitely extremely happy with the position in the top three but we know that this is only the start of the weekend and tomorrow is the real job.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, in Bahrain you were surrounded by the two Ferraris. Here you have Mark on your side. Which is the better situation?
MW:
I think clearly to have Mark here. As Mark said before we were pushing each other hard in qualifying and now we sit here first and second. That is a great achievement. It is better than having two Ferraris up here and only one Red Bull.

Q: Mark, what is your emotion right now? Is it frustration or disappointment?
MW:
For sure I have had tougher days in my life, so I will sleep well tonight. It is the competitive instinct that you come here looking to get the maximum and you always want to do a little bit better than what you did. In the end we both showed today that probably that was where the car was as we repeated the lap times a few times. I will be happy in the morning when I wake up. I am in a good position to have a decent race, but this place is incredibly unpredictable come Sunday afternoon. Not only because of the type of circuit it is but because there can be some changeable weather tomorrow afternoon. I am getting happier every minute.

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, what’s your plan for tomorrow? To wait for the Red Bull Racing battle or to attack your friend Mark Webber?
FA:
I will think about it tonight and make a decision tomorrow. No, let’s wait and see. Obviously, the first priority is to finish the race. We need the points. You cannot have a DNF (did not finish) in the second race of the championship because of one stupid mistake. So the first priority is to finish the race and the second priority is to finish in a better position than where you normally started the race. Not if you started on pole, but if you start third you only look ahead of you and there are Mark and Sebastian and hopefully you can have a chance to fight with them. If not, obviously we need to fight to be on the podium, because that would also be a good result, to finish the first two races on the podium. So let’s wait and see and tomorrow we will see how the race develops.

Q: (Luis Fernando – Racing Magazine) Mark, a few days ago, you said it was better to be first or third in qualifying because it would be a bit of a mess to start on the right side of the grid, so can we assume that tomorrow you will be more in a defensive frame of mind than an attacking one?
MW:
I would still take second over third, obviously. I still have a reasonable position to start the race. It’s very difficult to know how it will unfold until basically the first hundred meters tomorrow. We’re still very, very optimistic. Our starts were good in Bahrain. In the past there has been a bit of a difference from left to right here but we will see what happens. Obviously the Lamborghinis decided to smash into each other on the front straight quite solidly today, so there’s been a bit of a clean-up after that and hopefully the track is clean. It’s always the way; Budapest, Monaco, there are a few tracks and this is one of them where there is a discrepancy from left to right but that’s how it’s always been, so I will see how it goes.

Q: (Mark Fogarty – Auto Action) Mark, perhaps more than ever, the eyes of a nation will be on you tomorrow. How daunting a prospect is that?
MW:
Not really, mate, because I know tomorrow’s papers will be wrapping fish and chips on Monday. They’re very fickle and most people down here obviously think that this is the only race of the season. I have a much, much bigger thing in mind, obviously, a good result tomorrow. Of course I’m keen to do well here, but every Grand Prix is a very respectful thing to take part in. I’ve a very good team behind me and whether I’m in Australia, Budapest, Japan we give our best. Every time we get in the car we have to deliver. Today I didn’t feel any pressure at all. I felt like I drove well and I enjoyed it. When the helmet is on, it’s over to me to do the job.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Vettel, in the last race on softer tyres, it looks like you had a little bit better performance than Ferrari and when you used hard tyres, it looked Alonso was maybe a little bit better. Considering what you saw in free practice, what can you expect from the race?
SV:
Well, I think this is a different circuit here, different tyres as well, soft and hard, but they are both different to Bahrain, so I think, as Fernando has already mentioned, the lap times on Friday weren’t really representative. Everyone is doing whatever he thinks is best for his kind of preparation, either qualifying, something in between, or race. I think we will have a good car in the race. To be honest, I don’t think you have to be a genius if you look at yesterday, we didn’t really focus on qualifying too much. I think it makes us confident for the race and we should have a good car, so Fernando was saying that they have a new front wing on the car, only a couple of hundredths or as Mark said it could be two hundred hundredths. Obviously it’s not that much but everyone is trying to push, trying to improve. I think tomorrow it will be much more about having a tidy race as it is likely that a lot of things happen here: safety cars, as we said already. There’s usually a lot of action at Albert Park. I hope for a boring race and we finish as we start. I’m sorry for you but we didn’t really get the job done in Bahrain, so we will try to do it here.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) I was about to ask how boring it could be; can you promise a more colourful race for the TV spectators?
SV:
Well, I think yes, because this circuit has an edge that there is simply more action than probably in Bahrain, so more things happening. The circuit’s not that long, so you might also have more situations lapping cars, lapping groups which can always be a dangerous situation for yourself and for them as well. There’s not a lot of run-off whereas in Bahrain, if you maybe do a mistake you just run wide and you come back. Here it always looks nice on TV but it feels horrible in the car, as I felt yesterday. It’s immediately gravel or something that isn’t that smooth. Yeah, I think we will have more excitement tomorrow just because of the circuit, first of all. Secondly, I think it’s a bit closer here than it was in Bahrain. It’s also a shorter track, so it’s natural, and lastly, as Fernando said, we don’t know the weather yet. There’s usually always sunshine in Australia, so I don’t know what’s wrong this year. You never know what happens. Just a couple of drops on the circuit can make a difference. So you keep the car on the track and try to bring it home. For us, I think the target is clear.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, we have seen that the Red Bull is a fast car, but the reliability is probably not at its best. What do you have to do with the team, how have you spoken to them to try to avoid the problems that you had in Bahrain? Are you worried about it?
SV:
Well, it’s not fair to say that we are struggling with reliability. In Bahrain, we were obviously a bit unlucky with the failure that we had. A spark plug failure doesn’t really happen too often but it happened in that case. The main thing is that we carried on and we still finished fourth. I think Mark had a solid race in Bahrain. If you look at reliability, I think it was quite boring for him to follow another car for the whole race and not be able to pass, even though he was probably quicker. To come back, I think we have nothing to fear. We have good and strong people on board. If there’s any indication that we might have a weakness here or there, which, to be frank with you, in testing it’s natural, I think, because the car is new because you always have some problems here and there to solve. We solved them and so far we’ve had no issues. In that regard I’m quite confident.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Mark, there are reports in the papers that Sydney will make a bid for this race after the contract expires. But you also say you like it here. What is it about Melbourne that makes it the perfect home for the Australian Grand Prix?
MW:
Look, this is not the Melbourne Grand Prix for me, it’s the Australian Grand Prix. We should be proud of having a big event like this in Australia. I know Australia’s very territorial when it comes to separate states and in many ways we are different countries within one but it’s a big country and you can get here to watch the race from any part of Australia if you’re keen. I don’t have a clue where they’re going to run a Grand Prix in Sydney at the moment. Of course it’s a long way away if they’re looking to design something half decent, but there’s nothing wrong with this venue. All the drivers like it. Transport is sensational. Seb says we need to resurface it in places a little bit but we can do that if we have to. You always think it’s greener somewhere else. Adelaide put on a good show and so has this place. We’ve been here for a long time.

Whitmarsh questions Red Bull ride height system

Martin Whitmarsh is concerned about Red Bull's innovation

Martin Whitmarsh is concerned about Red Bull's innovation

The team principal for McLaren, Martin Whitmarsh, has questioned the system that Red Bull operate to keep their cars’ ride height as low as possible in low-fuel qualifying, thereby giving them a performance advantage.

Since refuelling is banned this year, the full tanks at the start of the race means that the cars will be much lower to the ground, then rise slowly as the fuel burns off.  This increase in ride height results in a proportional decrease in downforce and grip as the race continues, and in qualifying. Whitmarsh believes that Red Bull are operating a system that allows their ride height to adjust itself, which means the car can run lower to the ground in qualifying, giving them an advantage against their rivals.

Whitmarsh thinks that the RB6 cars operate a ride height controlling structure, which he previously believed to be illegal in the technical regulations. He said:

"There's evidence that there are ride-height control systems which many people thought weren't permissible. It
looks like Red Bull and some other cars are able to run lower in qualifying than you would expect, if they're
then going to fill the car with fuel afterwards."

The idea of the suspension or a mechanism that controls the car’s ride height, like Red Bull are doing, had originated from active suspension, the innovation in the 1980’s and 1990’s that kept the car flat and level through bumps. However, it is unclear if Red Bull’s system is illegal, or if there is a system at all. However, Whitmarsh implied that the system was legal, by saying:

"As you can imagine, we're working quite hard on those systems now. The original rulings suggested such systems 
wouldn't be allowed on cars but we're seeing some which seem to have them."

If McLaren are working on their own system, then they must believe that the innovation is legal. However, it is still unclear how much of an advantage the Red Bulls have gotten from this innovation. If it is a large advantage, then expect to see the other teams start to claw away at the team’s lead in the technical sense.

Austraian qualifying picture gallery

Today we saw Red Bull lock out the front row before the Australian Grand Prix tomorrow. Here are some of the pictures taken from today:

Vettel and Webber lock out the front row in Australian qualifying

Sebastian Vettel ahead of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso

Sebastian Vettel ahead of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso

Red Bull took the front row of the grid for the Australian Grand Prix tomorrow, with Sebastian Vettel leading local boy Mark Webber.

Vettel’s Q3 time of 1.23.919 was the fastest of the weekend so far, and was a tenth of a second ahead of Webber. Fernando Alonso’s best lap time was 1.24.111, putting him in third place. The biggest susprise of qualifying was Lewis Hamilton failing to get into Q3, the first of the top 4 teams to do so this season.

Q1

Red Bull were the only team who managed to get through to Q2 using only the hard tyres, which are believed to be half a second slower than the softer tyre. Hamilton, Button and Alonso, as well as the Red Bulls, were all able to get through with only 1 run. As expected, the new 3 teams filled up the back 3 rows of the grid, but HRT have now improved well from Bahrain. The two Lotus drivers finished ahead of Virgin and HRT. However, Jarno Tulli’s performance was hindered by a broken seat.

Sebastien Buemi would have been knocked out with the new teams, but for a last-gasp effort to put Vitaly Petrovin his place. The Russian might have got through to Q2, but a mistake at Turns 11 and 12 slowed him down considerably.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18)Sebatien Buemi

19)Heikki Kovalainen

20)Jarno Trulli

21)Timo Glock

22)Lucas di Grassi

23)Bruno Senna

24)Karun Chandhok

Q2

The biggest surprise of this session was that Lewis Hamilton failed to get through to Q3. He did two runs on the soft tyre, and was only a small fraction of a second behind Robert Kubica, but ended up 11th.

While Nico Hulkenberg only qualified 15th, Rubens Barrichello was 7 tenths faster, and got through to Q3. The Saubers struggled again, with Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi getting 14th and 16th respectively.Toro Rosso did well, with Sebastien Buemi getting 12th, and Jaime Alguersuari ending up 17th.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11)Lewis Hamilton

12)Sebastien Buemi

13)Vitantonio Liuzzi

14)Pedro de la Rosa

15)Nico Hulkenberg

16)Kamui Kobayashi

17)Jaime Alguersuari

Q3

Webber was initially fastest, getting ahead of Alonso. But, Vettel’s fastest lap of the weekend threw him off the top spot, despite a mistake in the final sector.All of the top drivers’ final runs were fruitless, with little improvement from their efforts.

At the end of the session, both Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher tried a run on the hard tyres, but neither improved on their time. It is clear that they were trying to improve their chances in the race, by going further in the first stint.

Jenson Button was fourth, followed by Felipe Massa, Rosberg, Schumacher, Barrichello, Kubica and Sutil.

Pictures will be added soon.

Full results from qualifying:

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.24.774 1.24.096 1.23.919
2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.25.286 1.24.276 1.24.035
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.25.082 1.24.335 1.24.111
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.24.897 1.24.531 1.24.675
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.25.548 1.25.010 1.24.837
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.24.788 1.24.788 1.24.884
7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1.25.351 1.24.871 1.24.927
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.25.702 1.25.085 1.25.217
9 Robert Kubica Renault 1.25.588 1.25.122 1.25.372
10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.25.504 1.25.046 1.26.036
11 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.25.046 1.25.184
12 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.26.061 1.25.638
13 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1.26.170 1.25.743
14 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.26.089 1.25.747
15 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.25.866 1.25.748
16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.26.251 1.25.777
17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.26.095 1.26.089
18 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.26.471
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.28.797
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.29.111
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.29.592
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.30.185
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.30.526
24 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1.30.613

Australian Friday practice analysis

Today in Australia we saw Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton top the two Friday Practice sessions. However, one of these was heavily hampered by rain, which makes the data more difficult to read. Here is what we have learned from today.

Mercedes vs McLaren

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 1

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 1

In Friday Practice 1, apart from two slips from Hamilton, both drivers from both teams had the same pattern of pace. All of these drivers started with lower fuel, filled up, then burned up the fuel as the session went on. Rosberg’s and Schumacher’s times do appear quicker than the McLaren’s on the first graph. Also, Jenson Button has hinted that they were running quite low on fuel, which may distort this chart, as we don’t know how much fuel the Mercedes cars were carrying.

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 2

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 2

In FP2, the rain obviously slowed the cars down considerably, especiallyin the middle of people’s stints. The fastest laps set in this session were much closer, so it can be assumed that the Mercedes drivers were running slightly heavier.


The 3 new teams

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP1

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP1

The Fp1 chart is a good indicator of how the cars get faster along the weekend, as the track rubbers in. Lotus appear to have got ahead of their rivals, as Kovalainen’s and Trulli’s stints were consistently faster than the drivers for Virgin and HRT. Timo Glock was out often in FP1, but only set one proper fast lap, so the analysis for Virgin was left to Lucas di Grassi, who was consistently slower than Senna or Chandhok throughout the session. From this, we can see that Lotus are clearly ahead, while HRT are beginning to catch up with Virgin.

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP2

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP2

Unfortunately, not as much can be learned in FP2. This is because Chandok, Senna and Di Grassi all failed to get a fast lap in. Also, the changeable conditions affected the runnings as well. Still, throughout this session, the Lotus drivers of Trulli and Kovalainen were quite a bit quicker than Timo Glock.

The Lotus is certainly ahead, but the main question is when will HRT catch up with and overtake Virgin. It is much easier to do in these practice sessions, but HRT need to transform these improvements into better race pace to have a chance of catching up to Virgin. Reliability will be key in the next few races.

More graphs and analysis will be added soon.

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